A whole alternate universe of discovery awaits the avid reader
The act of reading is not merely an activity of leisure, it may hold psychological benefits too. Reading stimulates the mind and during the time of concentration, the activity may reduce levels of anxiety and calm the mind.
During these times of uncertainty, turning to literature as a form of therapy may be a practical option for many of us, particularly those struggling with anxiety.
Bibliotherapy is a form of therapy using literature, it uses a list of books tailored to an individual with healing and therapy in mind. With bibliotherapy being a practised form of therapy, and evidence to support its success, it exemplifies the benefits of reading for the improvement of psychological health. The levels of concentration and focus needed while reading is a form of meditation in itself, helping the relax the body and mind in as quickly as six minutes. Therefore, just spending a miniscule amount of time a day reading can help reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
While the act of reading can provide almost immediate anxiety and stress relief, reading about the experiences of others may also help a person both practically and psychologically. With the typical plot line of a fiction novel involving some form of problem and the protagonist trying to solve that problem, bibliotherapy can be beneficial in helping an individual to solve their own personal problems. This can come about through reading and learning from a character’s experiences in the course of the novel.
The escapist nature of reading is one of the ways in which reading can be seen as form of therapy. Reading provides an escape for an individual.
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By Natasha Drewtt: Literature Columnist
Every book offers another world to explore, another place to escape to. Literature offers a sense of escapism, when faced with feelings of anxiety, the concentration and focus on the words on a page can help to ease the mind of these feelings of anxiety.
Through the escapism provided by fictional literature, we grow close to and begin to identify with the characters. In doing so, one may be able to improve their ability to emphasise with others and apply this to real life situations. Reading can, as a result, be considered a cathartic experience through the way a reader experiences the same emotions as a character as they begin to empathise with them. Despite reading being a solitary action, the ways in which a reader begins to grow close to characters can make one feel less isolated.
Literature possesses both physically calming properties along with allowing an individual to gain the skills and knowledge needed to overcome aspects of their own lives. Therefore, bibliotherapy is a very good and easily accessible way to relieve stress and anxiety. However, despite the effectiveness that literature possesses as a form of therapy, the escapist nature of reading could potentially be maladaptive. It is important to not rely solely on literature as the escapist nature of fictional literature may become dysfunctional and begin to harm one’s wellbeing.